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Painted Desert Thunderstorm (2012) by aerial photographer Greg Brown. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Painted Desert Thunderstorm (2012) by aerial photographer Greg Brown. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As you plan your running adventures for the year, be sure to add the Louis Tewanima 10K. This year will be the 46th running of this iconic race. The race is always on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend; this year, that’s Sept. 1.

If you don’t know his story, Tewanima was a Hopi who won the silver medal in the 10,000-meter race at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

Last fall, on a stormy monsoon Saturday afternoon, a friend and I loaded up our running kits and drove from the NAU home cross country meet to Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation. The normally dry Painted Desert was spectacularly wet as we drove through strong winds and rain and lots of flowing water. The stormy weather confirmed our decision to forgo camping and instead book a room in the warm and dry Hopi Cultural Center adjacent to the race start.

The night before the race, at the Second Mesa Community Center, the whole community turned out to feed race participants. The prerace meal included tasty, home-cooked pie and cobbler, along with homemade marinara sauce and spaghetti and even better company and conversation.

The race starts early, at sunrise. As the sun rose over Second Mesa, we were well on our way from the start line to the mesa’s edge. After running across the mesa, we descended some gradual steps on single-track down the mesa. The steps went across a wet, muddy layer of shale for about a mile. The recent rain made clay in the shale stick to and cover the soles of shoes completely. Fortunately, the course eventually left the shale layer and returned to sand and sandstone.

As we ran around the mesa’s sides, its tops reverberated with Hopi cheers for all the runners. The course is exceptionally well-marked, with course marshals directing runners at any location or turn that is potentially confusing. There is about one aid station every mile, with cheerful volunteers passing out water.

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The hallmark of the course is the last mile, straight back up Second Mesa. On the way up the cliffs of the mesa toward the finish, I looked down at my buzzing watch, wondering if I had hit the last mile marker. It turned out I was going so slowly up the hand-cut stairs that my watch had dynamically paused, thinking I’d stopped.

After we crossed the finish line where Vince Sherry and the fine crew from Run Flagstaff were managing the timing, there was fresh-cut watermelon to enjoy while cheering other runners.

If you haven’t yet tried the Tewanima footrace, I recommend you consider making plans to run through the culture and history of the Hopi on Second Mesa. Help this race achieve its goal of attracting over 500 participants this year.

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When not running the trails of northern Arizona, Abe Springer is finding springs as a professor of hydrogeology and ecohydrology in the School of Earth and Sustainability at NAU. He enjoys running on his surgically reconstructed knee with TRF and NATRA and in the Flagstaff Summer Series.

Do you have a column, tip or idea for High Country Running? Run it over to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds at runner@juliehammonds.com, or tweet her @highcountry_run.

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